Car makers eye different paths to success at Targa Newfoundland 2007
ST. JOHN'S (August 7, 2007) -- At least four of the world's top auto manufacturers -- including the largest builder of hybrid cars -- will square off against each other and a legion of resourceful privateers in an attempt to claim bragging rights at this year's Targa Newfoundland, September 8-15, 2007.
Fiercely competitive, the car manufacturers with entries in the 6th annual Targa Newfoundland international rally have their eyes on the prize of winning Canada's longest and toughest motorsports challenge. Each takes a slightly different path toward victory.
Returning for the fifth year is BMW Group Canada with their two-time Open Division-winning MINI Cooper S. Competing in what is potentially the toughest Targa category for highly modified cars, the diminutive MINI has surprised its competitors with its nimble performance in the tight stages and its consistent speed in the week-long challenge offered by the tarmac roads of eastern and central Newfoundland.
Returning to helm the defending Division champ is auto journalist and TV personality Jim Kenzie of Ontario and Brian Bourbonniere of Nova Scotia. Driver Kenzie and co-driver Bourbonniere gave the MINI, in John Cooper Works Edition trim, its first international motorsports victory in 2005. They repeated in 2006 as the Canadian half of a two-car team that included a similar car in the hands of two U.S. motoring journalists. The Americans' rally ended against a tree on the first day, leaving the Canadians to uphold the corporate honour.
Kenzie, a veteran of five Targa Newfoundland competitions, is considered one of the co-founders of the event.
Another corporate veteran of Targa is Subaru Canada Inc., a regular competitor and staunch supporter since 2003. The brilliant blue cars are resounding fan favourites at Targa, so enthusiasts will be delighted to see the return of the Subaru WRX STi in the thick of this year's competition. Back behind the wheel of the Open Division entry after being sidelined by illness last year is driver John Paynter. With his co-driver/brother Clarke in the right seat, the Nova Scotia pair know the event well and are solid contenders.
Subaru Canada has claimed a shelf full of trophies at Targa, including class and category victories, frequently entering cars in both the Targa competition and in the Grand Touring event. In addition to its popularity with the fans, the company has earned the admiration and gratitude for the Subaru Rally Team's willing technical assistance to many stricken competitors over the years. For 2007, Subaru is the Honoured Marque of Targa Newfoundland, and will provide a new 2008 Subaru Impreza for course-opening duties.
Also returning is Mazda Canada with an innovative two-car team and an intriguing story.
There will be a factory-supported Mazda in each of the Targa and Grand Touring competitions in 2007. Returning with the colourful Mazda RX-8 is driver Jeff McKague and co-driver Mike Gayowski, both of Ontario. McKague made his Targa debut in the car in 2006 and drove a measured, strategic rally to a good result in the Modern Division.
A 2007 Mazdaspeed3 and an all-female team will carry the Mazda Racer Chicks banner in Grand Touring. Driver Nika Rolczewski of Ontario makes her second appearance at the event while navigator Sandra Lemaitre, also of Ontario, makes her Targa debut in the navigator's seat. A newspaper columnist and self-described "automotive adventurer," Rolczewski is making a big sacrifice to return to the event after her first appearance in 2004: she is getting married the day before the rally and will forgo her honeymoon to be on the Targa starting line!
One of the most interesting corporate entries will no doubt be the Lexus GS450h -- one of the first hybrid vehicles to enter a serious motorsports competition in North America. The big performance luxury sedan will be driven by respected Canadian auto writer Marc Lachapelle and guided by long-time Targa competitor and supporter Jean-Francois Drolet in the co-driver seat. Both Lachapelle, an accomplished road racer, and Drolet, a two-time Targa winner in Grand Touring, are from Quebec.
The Lexus is the first entry in the Hybrid category within the Modern Division. It will compete on a handicap basis with other Modern cars for division honours and with Classic, Modern and Open Division entries in pursuit of the Overall title. Lexus hybrids have participated in endurance races in Japan, but Targa marks one of the first entries in a major motorsport event in North America. Although the company wants to win, Lexus acknowledges that their entry is also about busting the myth that hybrids are sedate and un-entertaining to drive. How the design copes with the rigours of Targa will be the subject of much interest.
The announcement of the Hybrid category earlier this year generated a flurry of inquiries from other companies and individuals interested in the concept. Rumours continue to fly about a fifth corporate entry.
Manufacturer interest in Targa dates back to the inaugural event. Since 2002, Targa has played host to entries from Chrysler, Kia, Mitsubishi and Porsche.
Targa Newfoundland is one of three internationally recognized Targa motorsports events in the world and is listed on the Federation International de l'Automobile (FIA) international calendar.
The 6th annual Targa Newfoundland will start and end in St. John's and will cover more than 2,000 kilometres of the challenging, twisty roads of the central and eastern portion of the island of Newfoundland over six days, including up to 400 kilometres of closed-road, flat-out Targa Stages. The event starts with registration and technical inspection in St. John's on Saturday, September 8, and concludes back in the city on Friday, September 14, 2007.
Competitors have come from the U.S., Australia, New Zealand, Holland, the Bahamas and the U.K. for the first five editions of Targa Newfoundland. Entries continue to arrive daily for the 2007 event. Targa Newfoundland is owned and organized by Newfoundland International Motorsports.